What Is The Average Sentence For Drug Offences?

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What Is The Average Sentence For Drug Offences?

Drug offences encompass a range of activities such as production, importation, possession, supply, incitement, obstruction, conspiracy, and permitting premises to be used for drug-related purposes. Suppose you find yourself involved in a drug offence and facing potential imprisonment. In that case, it is crucial to understand the possible outcomes and seek legal representation from an experienced drug offence solicitor. 

The prospect of appearing in court can be daunting, especially if the chances of being found guilty are high. Convictions for serious drug offences typically result in severe prison sentences. However, it is important to note that a competent and experienced criminal defence solicitor may be able to reduce or even avoid a prison sentence.

Understanding Drug Offences

Drug offences encompass various categories, and your case may fall under one or more of the following:

  1. Possession or possession with intent to supply
  2. Supply or conspiracy to supply 
  3. Importation
  4. Production, (including cannabis cultivation) or conspiracy to produce.
  5. Permitting premises to be used for drug offences
  6. Incitement
  7. Obstruction

When determining the sentence for drug offences, the evidence is classified into four categories based on the drug’s class, quantity, and the individual’s role in the offence.

Regardless of your unique circumstances, it is crucial not to engage in a police interview without the presence of an experienced criminal defence solicitor who specialises in defending drug offences. You should always seek legal advice before speaking to the police, as any communication or information you give them could be used as evidence against you.

False Accusations of Drug Offences

Innocent individuals are sometimes falsely accused with drugs offences for a variety of reasons, for example;

  • Mistaken identity
  • Incorrect attribution of electronic devices such as mobile telephones involved in drug supply or conspiracy
  • Forensic evidence such as fingerprints or DNA on drug packaging or items alleged to be connected with drugs or drugs supply

If you believe you have been falsely accused, it may be possible to have your case stopped or discontinued by the prosecution  before it reaches court. You should contact an expert drugs solicitor immediately.

Average Sentences for Drug Offences

Drug offences are governed by the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 and the sentences for drug offences vary depending on the specific circumstances of each case, and additional ancillary orders may be imposed. 

For instance, in the Crown Court, if you are found guilty of possession with intent to supply a Class A drug the maximum sentence if  life imprisonment and an unlimited fine. The maximum prison sentence for this crime, involving either class B or Class C drugs, is 14 years imprisonment, accompanied by an unlimited fine.

Most drugs offences are “either way” offences meaning that they could be dealt with either at the Magistrates Court or Crown Court. It is up to the magistrates to determine where the case should be dealt with and will depend on the circumstances of the case, class, weight and purity of the drugs and an individual’s personal circumstances. For example, an offender with two previous convictions for drug supply offences will automatically be sent to the Crown court as if convicted he would be deemed to be a “three striker” and sentenced to mandatory minimum sentence of 7 years imprisonment. Sentences in the Magistrates Court are more lenient, the maximum sentence for a drugs offence is  6-month imprisonment and a fine of £5000.

Factors Considered for Sentencing

Sentencing in drug offences is based on judges’ guidelines to determine penalties. While these guidelines provide general direction, each case is assessed individually. One crucial factor a judge must consider is the defendant’s level of genuine remorse. Other factors taken into account include previous convictions, level of cooperation with the investigation, original legitimacy of the activity, reputation or good character, serious medical conditions requiring treatment, learning disabilities or mental disorders, and caretaker responsibilities for dependents.

Role-based Culpability

The role played by the offender can influence their culpability in drug offences. Different characteristics are used to determine the offender’s role, which can fall into three categories:

Leading Role:

  • Directing or organising buying and selling on a large scale
  • Significant financial gain
  • Influence over others involved

Significant Role:

  • Significant involvement in buying and selling
  • Lesser financial gain than a leading role
  • Some influence over others involved

Lesser Role:

  • Limited involvement in buying and selling
  • Limited financial gain
  • Minimal or no influence over others involved

These role-based assessments can impact the severity of the sentence imposed.

Mitigating Factors

Several mitigating factors can potentially reduce the sentence for a drug offence. These factors include:

  1. Early guilty plea: Pleading guilty at the earliest opportunity demonstrates acceptance of responsibility and will lead to a reduced sentence. This can be as much as one third of the sentence if the guilty plea is indicated at the earliest opportunity.
  2. Cooperation with the authorities: Assisting the authorities by providing information or cooperating in the investigation can be viewed favourably by the court.
  3. Lack of previous convictions: 
  4. Remorse and rehabilitation: Showing genuine remorse for the offence and taking steps towards rehabilitation, such as seeking treatment for drug addiction, can positively impact the sentencing.

These factors, along with the case’s specific circumstances, will be considered by the court when determining the appropriate sentence.

Drug offences carry serious consequences, including substantial prison sentences and fines. The other orders resulting from drug convictions such as confiscation under the proceeds of crime act can also be financially devastating resulting in persons having to liquidate their assets including selling or re-mortgaging their home in order to pay confiscation order and avoid additional prison sentences for failing to pay on time. 

If you find yourself facing drug-related charges, it is crucial to seek legal representation from a qualified drug offence solicitor specialising in defending drug offences. Here at Burton Copeland, we can guide you through the legal process, protect your rights, and work towards achieving the best possible outcome for your case. To discuss a case with a criminal defence solicitor, please call our Manchester office on 01618279500. You can also fill in our online contact form and let us know a suitable time for us to contact you. 

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